Ed Harris on ‘Westworld’ Season 2’s “Insane” Filming Schedule, Secrecy, and More
Life comes at you fast. It’s hard to believe that this time last year we were just diving into the mysteries of Westworld. By the end of October, the internet was alight with rampant theories, and while the HBO hit’s first season finale solved most of the perplexing puzzles laced into the sci-fi narrative, it also presented a whole new batch of intrigue and this time, the wait for answers has been especially long.
Production on Season 2 finally kicked off over the summer, just in time to deliver a surprise trailer at San Diego Comic-Con, for a planned Spring 2018 debut on the cable network. In keeping with the mystery box secrecy of Westworld‘s first season, details on the new episodes have been scarce, even with the cast and crew making the awards circuit rounds at the Emmys.
Naturally, when we caught up with Westworld star Ed Harris at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival for his new film Kodachrome, he was pretty tight-lipped about the “trippy” new season, but he did share some details about the filming schedule, and how creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have taken measures with the Season 2 scripts to ensure they don’t run into the production snags that plagued the first season.
“We shot the pilot three years ago, two and a half years ago, and then we started the season it was supposed to be done Christmastime, but we stopped early November — we shut down because they didn’t have their last few scripts, they weren’t happy with them,” Harris explained. “I went off and did a play in New York. I did Buried Child and I said, “Look I’m not available until April or March, so they waited until I was done and we finished the last three episodes. So now we’re in the middle of season 2, we got going on season 2 it’s pretty trippy already.”
“They’re in better shape this year. They’re better prepared,” he continued, explaining that the creative team was determined to have all the scripts finished ahead of production to ensure they stayed on schedule — and according to Harris, that schedule is “insane” with multiple units running at multiple locations on any given day.
“So far, we’ve shot some from episode 1, episode 2, some from episode 4, some from episode 10. They’re committed to having the scripts done to shoot so we’re done by Christmas,” Harris said. “I’m glad that I am not a person who’s trying to schedule the days of filming on this thing, because it’s insane. Sometimes you’ll have two, three different episodes being shot. Different crews, different locations; I don’t know how they get it all done.”
Of course, the other element that set Westworld‘s Season 1 production apart from your average not-Game of Thrones TV show was the amount of secrecy, which kept the actors in the dark about the twists and turns waiting ahead. “They didn’t tell me a lot,” said Harris. “You’re finding out stuff in episode 7 that would have been kind of nice to know.”
So is Season 2 just as secretive so far? Harris says they’re definitely keeping the production site a secret to avoid paparazzi and unwelcomed guests, but in general, “Not as much — not intentionally. I think initially maybe they were [at first], which I don’t quite understand.” He continued, “Personally, as an actor whose done quite a bit of stage work, you know, you know was the script is. You rehearse the effin’ play for four weeks and then you do it every night and you keep it alive every night. So trust me, if I know something that has to do with my character, it’s not going to… you know.”
But according to Harris, some of that Season 1 secrecy may have stemmed from the fact that Nolan and Joy hadn’t quite figured out where his character was going. The actor says they never went back to reshoot scenes from the first episodes after the production hiatus, but he does think they were still figuring out the Man and Black’s trajectory. “I don’t think they knew quite — I’m not so sure, some aspects of my character, I’m not so sure they even knew until later on. I think it was like a 50-50 proposition.”
If you’re looking for plot hints for what to expect in Season 2, Harris ain’t your guy. “So far it’s definitely intriguing,” he said with a smile. “I don’t understand all that’s going on, but I know what I’m doing.”
Look for more from Steve’s TIFF interview with Ed Harris soon.